Research Highlights: In Still Air, Fruit Flies Can Travel 12 Kilometers in a Single Flight

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By Sanjay Acharya – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63862733

In Still Air, Fruit Flies Can Travel 12 Kilometers in a Single Flight

April 25, 2021

  • In insects, long-distance dispersal has ecological importance.
  • Advanced molecular techniques are widely available however, the mechanistic basis of long-distance dispersal is not well understood in genetic model species.
  • Researchers question how insects interact with the wind to identify attractive odor and increase their movement distance as they disperse.
  • To study dispersal, researchers carry out an experiment in the Mojave Desert using fruit flies.
  • The setup includes baited traps in a 1-kilometer radius ring around the release site.
  • Cameras were used to capture the arrival times of flies as they landed.
  • Researchers released between 30,000 and 200,000 flies for each experiment.
  • Researchers quantified the influence of winds on the flies’ dispersal behavior.
  • Data confirmed that a tiny fruit fly can disperse about 12 kilometers in a single flight in still air.
  • Fruit fly may even travel many more times in a moderate wind.
  • The model accounts for the observation that flies actively fan out in all directions.
  • However, the flies are increasingly advected downwind as the wind intensifies.
  • The results suggest that dispersing insects may strike a balance between the need to cover large distances while still maintaining the chance of intercepting odor plumes from upwind sources.

Source:

Leitch KJ, Ponce FV, Dickson WB, van Breugel F, Dickinson MH. The long-distance flight behavior of Drosophila supports an agent-based model for wind-assisted dispersal in insects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Apr 27;118(17):e2013342118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2013342118. PMID: 33879607

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